Testimony of An Alcoholic
Foreword: Testimony of an alcoholic is written by an alcoholic who was drinking at the time of writing the article. His story is a powerful testimony of his awareness of his situation. He wants to share his story with you.
“Alcohol has a very long history in just about every culture as a social lubricant, yet it has always been a coin with two very different sides. And this is the conundrum. Heads, it helps people to ‘lighten up’, to put those who may be socially timid at ease. Tails. It is a chemical both subtle enough and deadly enough to utterly destroy lives. On balance – don’t go near it with a ten foot pole.
Many seem to have the balance just right. They drink to be ‘sociable’, and know when to stop. Others, however, have no such mechanism. So is it people who are at fault? There. I said it – automatically. ‘At fault’. So the ‘problem’ then appears to reside with the individual. The problem being that some know when to stop while others do not. So how does that make it a problem? In essence, it doesn’t.
The question is, how much booze is too much booze?
I have a feeling that this is the point where people become very interested in voicing their opinion. The spectrum of response is broad. At one end, total abstinence. At the other, it is my business how much I drink and nothing to do with anybody else. Hmmmm. True, I suppose, if you live in a bubble. But who lives in a bubble?
A wise alcoholic, (they do exist), may try to create a bubble in order to minimize the impact their drinking has on those around them. Few alcoholics are that wise. Issues of domestic violence, drink-driving accidents/offences and the ultimate cost to the health service, bear testimony to the fact that excessive consumption of alcohol can rarely, if ever, be confined to a bubble.
Society, as reflected in the mass media, simply cannot resist the temptation to judge. The media is quite happy to advertise alcohol and take the cash for it. Alcohol is not the problem. People are.
What take do governments have on the matter? Well, that depends where you live and that fact in itself suggests that the jury is still out on any kind of definitive solution. For example, in the US alcoholism, to a great extend, is regarded as a disease and funds are released to try to tackle it like any other medical illness.
In Europe, in general, alcoholism is regarded as a social problem. We need to address the individual and their life-choices. In Arabic countries, in general, it is banned outright. Simple as that.
But where does that leave us? We need some facts.
Fact one. Alcohol is an addictive and poisonous chemical. We have to dilute it or it would kill us immediately. We need to flavour it, because the actual taste of it is seriously horrible.
Fact two. Some people respond well within the bounds of social norms when consuming alcohol. Others are totally out of control.
Fact three. Overconsumption of alcohol is both a medical and a social problem.
Should we blame the alcoholic? No. Why not? Would you choose to compromise your health, destroy your relationships, see people you care about suffer, lose your job, your home, your self-respect. In short…everything that makes you human?
Would you? Of course you wouldn’t.
The idea of ‘choice’ here then is a complete non-starter. No choice, no blame. He has no choice. He is ill.
But why is it that whenever I want information about the illness that is alcoholism, I hit a brick wall of well-intentioned so-called professionals who have never actually been there? I think that only people who have actually been there know what an alcoholic is talking about. Do-gooders no doubt have the best of intentions but it’s a bit like a man trying to sympathise with his wife during her labour. You simply have no idea.
Does that mean these people cannot help? No. They can help. Not by judging, even accidentally.
I might be an alcoholic, but I’m not stupid. I’m a university educated professional holding down a good job, thank you. I have what I consider to be an illness. I am ill. Am I to be judged because I am ill?
I understand that my drinking has reached an excessive level where it is having a negative impact on my life in general. I am a coping alcoholic who believes it is possible to reduce my level of drinking to socially acceptable levels. Am I in denial? I am not because I know what I am doing.
So why is it that some people become dependent on alcohol? I have heard all the stories. My father this, my mother that. My childhood blah blah blah. Dodgy histories an alcoholic do not make. If they did, there would be a lot more of us.
It is the person. It must be. My sister is two years older than me. She went through the exact same upbringing. She is not an alcoholic. So it’s not genetic. It can’t be. I have another sister who is four years older than me. She is not an alcoholic. I have a half-brother, six years older, different father. He is an alcoholic. His father is not an alcoholic. My mother was not an alcoholic. My father, I believe, was an alcoholic.
Complicated genetics, eh? So I don’t think that alcoholism is genetic. However, I reserve final judgement pending fresh facts. What if it were? Great! Isolate the gene, implement gene therapy, and Bob’s your uncle. Problem solved, case closed, and all the I-told-you-sos can begin.
Meanwhile, back in reality, the conundrum continues, and the question remains:
Why do I want another drink? Is there an incremental improvement in how I feel after another drink? That would be motivation. But it suggests that I am not happy where I am. Is this then about happiness? Ask me to make a list of the ten things in life that make me happy. I can guarantee you that twelve tins of beer will not be on the list.
As a thinking, self-aware and intelligent alcoholic, you have no idea how frustrating that fact is. But it remains a fact.
Do you think there is an answer?
Yes, I do.
Have you tried ‘professional’ organisations which purport to help alcoholics like you?
No, I haven’t.
Because I have immense self-belief. I believe that I can solve this problem. Going to somewhere like AA would be an admission of failure. Of giving up, and I’m not ready to give up.
If you are concerned about your drinking or would like more information on drinking and alcohol visit www.lookatyourdrinking.com